Gideon Levy in Morocco: ‘surprising coexistence’

The Jewish cemetery in Fez houses the tomb of Solika the martyr

The Moroccan Tourist Office could scarcely have hoped for a better puff piece than Gideon Levy’s (yes, the Gideon Levy) Haaretz article. The scourge of ‘the Israeli occupation’ seems to have found his model for ‘peaceful coexistence’ in Morocco (with thanks: bh):

“The cemetery was established hastily by the Jews when they were compelled to move it from a nearby site, but today it is better kept than any of the old Muslim cemeteries in Israel. Here is the grave of the rabbi whose son is a bank clerk in Netanya, here the last resting place of a girl who died for her faith. The former Azoulay Street in the mellah now has an Arab name, like all the other streets that once bore Jewish names, but the synagogue in the heart of the quarter has been superbly restored − at the initiative of Andre Azoulay, of course. There are only about 60 Jews left in Fez; our slaughterer, who is well into his sixties, is one of the youngest. Sabag is considering immigration to Israel: his son has arranged a job for him as a kashrut supervisor in an Eilat hotel.

“Some of the Jews we met, notably our escort, Senouf, dream of applying the Moroccan model to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A colorful, charming figure, Senouf is now planning a project in which Israelis and Palestinians will come to Morocco to study the nitty-gritty of coexistence together with Moroccans. But in Morocco, as elsewhere, the Jewish community, which numbers only about 3,000 souls, does not speak in one voice. At the Ifrane conference, for example, Simon Levy, a communist and the director of the Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca, likened the Israeli occupation in the territories to Nazism. He also reminded the audience that the greatest massacre of Jews in history was perpetrated by Europeans, not by Arabs. Andre Azoulay told the gathering: “I have been a Moroccan for 3,000 years. I am a Moroccan and a Jew. Here in this country Jews and Muslims are brothers. We are the only ones who can say this.”

“Morocco is a wonderful country, a land of contradictions and contrasts: the explicit and the mysterious, the overt and the veiled. There is much less interest in the Palestinian issue than one might expect − domestic issues are more acute: democratization, the economic situation, the faltering education and health systems, the Moroccan diaspora and the disputed Western Sahara, which no one dares mention. The economic and social situation is a faithful reflection of the kingdom’s geographic location − between Europe and Africa.”

Read article in full

My comment: Never mind that our starry-eyed Gideon’s hosts are rich Jews who can afford to extol the virtues of Moroccan ‘coexistence’. Note they almost all have that second home in Israel, just in case they need to make a quick exit, come the revolution. Royal adviser – some would say ‘court Jew’ – Andre Azoulay is seriously discombobulated by being called a Zionist agent: perhaps he has suddenly realised the limits of coexistence, and is regretting having sold his villa in Israel.

So the Jewish cemetery in Fez is beautifully kept and the synagogue restored – but with 90 percent of the Jews of Morocco gone, the Muslims are coexisting with dead Jews and empty Jewish buildings, which have their uses as tourist attractions. Before the French arrived in 1912, coexistence meant intimidation, constant humiliation as dhimmis, pogroms, and coercion by the Muslim majority. The girl ‘who died for her faith’ was Solika, the 19th century martyr, who chose to die a Jewess, rather than convert to Islam. It is her bitter legacy that Gideon Levy needs to confront.

There is no future for Jews in Morocco. Even Sabag, the kosher slaughterer, is setting up his next job in Israel. Anyone but Gideon Levy can see that coexistence between a dwindling 3,000 Jews (where there were once 300,000) and the Muslim majority, has been a dismal failure.


  • Eliyahu,
    Although I do not entirely disagree with your analysis of things, I would like to bring to your attention that I was basing my predictions only in the context of the CURRENT Moroccan Jewry co-existence with the muslim majority.

    My analysis of problem in light of the so-called palestinian issue does not suggest nor insinuate at all that the jew-hatred did not exist prior to the Balfour declaration or the UN partition or the creation of the state of Israel. Far from it, also my comment does allude to the fact that even if this palestinian problem is solved things will be normal. I think that even if this happen, arabs will find another way to reveal their hatred of jews. We all know that anti-semitism is deeply rooted and it possess a long track record since the birth, spread and institutionalization of the islamic faith.

    All I was advancing is that nowadays most if not all anti-jewish feelings in the arab world is fulled by this pseudo-palestinian issue. In a sense, most Arabs hide behing the anti-zionism (against the creation of the state, and the consequences of depriving the palestinians of their so-called homeland) as a way to divert claims of their anti-jewish feelings. The reason I am saying this is because all you hear from these half-enlightened crowds in the hall of academia as well as the coffee shops is that Arabs have no problems with jews but have issues with zionism, because it is racism and so on…,

    Of course we know someone is hiding behind a false problem in order to subvert audiences about their real intentions which are to the core anti-jewish. Arabs seem to suggest that there is a big difference between being anti-semitism (which they deny) and anti-zionism (which they expound with conviction and pride). For the jews, there is a no difference, when it comes to this arab position, because being anti-zionist can ONLY mean denying the jewish people the right of self-determination and rule which subsequently leads to dhimitude or in the extreme case annihilation.

  • Sammish, hostility toward Jews existed in Morocco and other Arab/Muslim lands before there was a "palestinian problem", before the reborn state of Israel. So why would solution of the "palestinian problem" remove hostility towards Jews? Rather, I would forecast that the weaker Israel may become, the more that hostility to Israel and Jews generally will intensify. This is what we have seen since the Yom Kippur War and more so since the Begin-Sadat-carter Camp David conference in 1978. Recall that after the YK War of 1973, Israel was blamed for the fake oil shortage of that time. Oil was coming into the USA all the time, but was held back in American ports, whether to raise the price or to blackmail Israel into more concessions. Now, after the unprecedented concessions of the present Israeli govt, Obama and his govt are continuing pressure. High US officials are now saying that solving the nuclear threat in the ME requires achieving "peace." Although they willingly fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, they don't want to raise a hand against Iran's mullahs. Making "peace" in the ME is now just another tool for pressuring Israel. Maybe if the EU & USA stopped funding the Palestinian Authority so generously and stopped their other, diplomatic support for it, there would be more chance for peace and less Arab belligerence.

  • L'etre humain ne vit pas seulement de pain mais de poesie.

    A note about the topic on this thread.

    Morocco remains the only arab country whose jewish population is large and properous, however, it is not a transparent coexistence. What I mean, is that this coexistence is not organic or normal, it is sustained still by avoidance and suspision. Jews are generally accepted as citizens and friends by muslims BUT and ONLY BUT at the immediate and close social networks whether it be work, neighborhood, or past alliances. Outside these networks, I am afraid to say that the Moroccan Jews are still hated and despised as much as they used to be, minus the ritual humiliations, beatings and derision.

    Fueling all this is course the resurgent fundamentalist islam which build itself on the marginalized and alienated youth but more importantly driven and spread by would-be immams and charlatans. However one must not neglect the pseudo-intellectual arab nationalist individuals who stress social rather than religious revival. All this is allowed to happen under the bigger umbrella of the mighty false problem of the palestinian issue.

    Therefore, Jews in Morocco are going to loose either way despite overtures and wishing well words by the authorities and the monarchy. In other words, there is a double whammy here. First, there is islam as an anti-jewish rethoric (in both its fundamentalist and the so-called moderate (which is a fallacy) tendencies). Second, there is the all dominant Arab nationalism striving to bring about deep social change by advocating secularism, wealth sharing and more democratic institutions which is very deeply anti-jewish but the slogan is anti-zionist (I do not see a difference really). These latter are very commited to the Palestinian cause which is a total war of the Jewish state. Now if you are a Jew in any Arab country what would be your fate ten, twenty or even fourty years. I do not see any light at the end of the tunel at all. In the short run, yes one can say that things as best as they can be, BUT for how long? That's is the dilemma facing Moroccan Jews, but also Tunisian Jews too…. There can never be a real coexistence unless this palestinian problem is solved. We all know what the rhetorics of the Arabs and muslims are regarding this problem. Peace is certainly not what is talked about, it is rather a return to dhimitude status. And that could be a disaster for Jews anywhere in the arab world.

  • KLOD,
    Tu parles comme un canard perfide,
    si j'ai toi je me ferais un roi stupide

    Ta langue retient un fort lauguage d'abus,
    si tu etais pres de moi je te donnerais un coup au cul.

  • That verse by Klod rhymes very nicely. But who is jealous of whom and for what is not clear.

  • From my daughter who recently returned from a student trip to Morocco where mostly the positive side portrayed by Levy was "sold" to the students:

    There is no future for the Jews of Morocco. All the youngsters are taught to leave and move to Israel or France the moment they can. There are still Jews there, there is a Jewish school in Casablanca and a Jewish Club, and the shul in Marrakesch, but pretty soon it won't be going anywhere. Despite one incident where the Rabbi of that school in Casablanca was attacked with an ax, the Moroccan Jews don't attempt to hide their identity. But truthfully, it seemed as though the lines of coexistence were very blurred in Morocco. We had more security there than we've had anywhere else and the boys weren't allowed to wear their kippot on the street. Now, in Turkey, entering any Jewish building required much more security, but that's because people actually inhabit these structures and someone can pose as a threat… I think that commentator makes a pretty truthful point.

  • Yes, Sol was born in Tangiers but prosecuted and judged guilty of blasphemy in Fez where she was beheaded in a public square.

  • one of the striking weaknesses with G Levy's article is that it almost exists out of history. There are a few allusions to Jewish hardships even before the French came. He does allude to Sol, the young woman who was beheaded as a result of the treachery of a Muslim woman that she considered a friend, who accused Sol of apostasy, of backsliding from her supposed conversion to Islam [I thought that Sol lived in Tangiers. There is a painting of her execution in a Paris museum which Andrew Bostom used on the cover of his important book on Islamic Judeophobia]

    But the dhimma is not mentioned, nor the pogroms before the French came. Of course, those 19th century Frenchmen who described the oppressed status of the Jews don't appear here. Yes, Bataween, the article is most suitable as a puff piece in a tourist magazine. We hear about tasty fish and elegant mansions, about craftsmen and friendship among the elite. But little history.

  • I quite agree, Michael. The few Jews who still live in Morocco are under the protection of the king – but as soon as he goes, they will be finished.
    Al-Quaeda obviously is a threat and Morocco may be paddling quite furiously under the surface to keep this semblance of smooth tranquility.

  • I read Gideon Levy's article. I keep asking myself, how is this coexistence? Yes, most of the Jews are gone. But more importantly, the government is a fraking monarchy/dictatorship. It offends me as an American, as an Israeli, and as a liberal Jew. If there is no democracy, there is no real coexistence.

  • Simon Levy's point is the old canard that the Palestinians are paying the price (thru their Nakba) for the Nazi Holocaust. Therefore coexistence between Jews and Arabs is not possible because the Israelis are the new Nazis.
    Of course he conveniently ignores Communist and Arab collusion with the Nazis.
    Albert Memmi once made the point that if you exclude the Holocaust, the numbers of Jews killed in Arab pogroms through the ages would likely equate to those killed in Europe.

  • I didn't mean to forget that Britain did its bit for the Holocaust too, all the while insisting that preventing Jewish refugees from reaching the Land of Israel [mandatory Palestine] during the Holocaust was being done on behalf of the Arabs in the country, who insisted that Jewish refugees not be allowed in.

  • The greatest massacre of Jews in history was perpetrated by Europeans, not by Arabs.

    Simon Levy is right. The greatest massacre of Jews in history was perpetrated by Europeans, not only Germans [inc. Austrians], but Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Romanians, Ukrainians, Norwegians, etc. What Simon Levy forgets is that Communists helped the German Nazis get the war started and conquer lands where great masses of Jews were living. He has heard of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, hasn't he?? According to that pact, Nazi Germany and the Communist USSR jointly invaded Poland and divided its territory between them. While the fires of war were still burning in Poland in 1939, Soviet Communist and German Nazi diplomats met in Moscow to declare "a struggle for peace"!!! The Communist state's newspaper, Izvestya, remarked in an editorial that Nazi ideology is "a matter of taste." So much for the Communists. [see link:]

    Levy may know that Arabs too collaborated in the Nazi Holocaust, but if so, he tries not to acknowledge it. Maybe he is unaware that Haj Amin el-Husseini, British-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, urged Hitler in 1941 to recognize the Arab right "to solve the Jewish Question in the Arab lands as it is being solved in Germany," in a letter sent to the Fuehrer by Husseini and other Arab nationalist leaders who had obtained refuge in Germany. [on the several appeals addressed to Hitler by Husseini's Arab nationalist group, see Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites]


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